Games » Tampa Bay RaysOct3
The Royals battled but lost. That’s the story of yesterday’s game and the 2010 season. The bottom line (and that’s what people tend to focus on because it’s easier to understand) is that the Royals are a losing, last-place team. But here’s something to think about: The Royals won 67 games, lost 30 by one run and 17 by two. That’s 114 games in which the Royals were competitive.
If the Royals can find 15 more wins in those 47 competitive losses, they become a winning team.
If you like crying, wailing and talking about how the Royals suck, go right ahead, that’s a fan’s right. But if your job is making the team better, you can’t afford to sit around crying, wailing and talking about how the Royals suck. You need to get busy finding 15 more wins. And the competitive losses mean you’re closer than some people think.
The only problem with this logic is the difference between being good and bad in baseball is razor-thin. The difference between a .300 hitter and one who hits .250 is a hit a week (go watch Bull Durham again…the season’s over, you’ve got time…Kevin Costner will explain it to you).
The good teams generally win about six out of 10 games, the bad about four out of 10. (Go check the standings, I’ll wait here.) You’ll find that the Royals wound up with a .414 winning percentage. Bad, right?
Bottom line? Yeah, but when your team is down by six after three, it’s deadly to think about getting all those runs back at once. That job seems overwhelming. Instead, think about stopping the other team right where they are, cutting the lead in half and going into the last three innings with a chance. That job seems possible…
The same logic applies to a season: Instead of thinking about going from last place to the playoffs, think about finding one more win every 10 games. That’s a much more reasonable goal, and the close scores in losing efforts suggest it’s reachable.
A very smart coach once told me there were two types of players: If a ground ball goes through their legs, one player throws his glove, kicks the dirt and pouts. The other one goes after the ball. Keep the one who goes after the ball.
Fans can afford to throw the glove, kick the dirt and pout. The Royals have to go after the ball.
So much for that theory…
More than once I’ve said that a game is pretty much over if the Royals hand the ball to Joakim Soria with a lead. Today, let’s emphasize “pretty much” since Joakim blew the save yesterday. To be fair, he had an infield single and then a seeing-eye grounder up the middle to set up the inning. Then with a 2-0 lead and an 0-2 count, he gave up an opposite-field double to Carlos Pena. That tied the game up and sent it to extra innings.
Soria had 43 saves in 46 opportunities this year, so I was right 93 percent of the time…a figure that will stun my wife.
The Royals and the K…
The Royals struck out 15 times in this game, which sounds awful. Well, nine of them came after the seventh inning. The Rays struck out 13 times, and nine of those came after the seventh inning. So what happened, everyone forgot how to hit all at once?
Nope, late-afternoon October baseball: The shadows crept in, the ball was going in and out of light and the pitcher was in silhouette with a bright background. Those are horrible hitting conditions that you’ll see duplicated in the playoffs. Watch for teams that pull out the stops to grab a lead before the shadows take effect.
Maybe he lost it in the sun…
The winning run was scored when a ball went through Wilson Betemit’s legs. Check out his defensive points in our system and you’ll know why.
Here’s a quick summary of what I saw this season:
- PITCHING: Always the No. 1 factor in a team’s success. Gil Meche and Luke Hochevar went down and Brian Bannister struggled. Thank God for Bruce Chen (the first time that sentence has ever been written in the English language.) Soria will probably continue to be outstanding, and if Meche and Robinson Tejeda can be the bridge to get him the ball, the Royals will have solved a lot of problems in 2011. The team had 10 different pitchers get their first win in the majors this season, and that’s not good. A lot of inexperienced pitchers were pressed into service. The Royals need more than Zack Greinke and four bottom of the rotation type starters. Hochevar, Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan need to stay consistent for the team to have a chance.
- DEFENSE: Always the No. 2 factor in a team’s success. Unless those pitchers are planning on striking everybody out, someone needs to catch the ball. The Royals made the most errors and had the worst fielding percentage in the American League. That’s got to get fixed. Despite all the criticism, Yuniesky Betancourt was the best infielder on the team. Billy Butler and Wilson Betemit are considered below average, Kila Ka’aihue about average, and everyone seemed to think Mike Aviles had more work to do at second or should be moved to third. Brayan Pena is improving as he plays, but nobody’s sure if he’s the guy until Jason Kendall returns. The outfield appears to be much more solid.
- OFFENSE: Few people think about baserunning when they think offense, but it’s huge. Give both teams the same number of hits, and the good baserunning team outscores the bad one every time. Ned Yost says he’s going to emphasize this next season. Despite all the roster turnover, Kevin Seitzer had the team hitting all year. Some people complained about lack of power (the same people who would complain about the color if you gave them a new car), but if they add more speed, I think that will solve some of those problems.
So that’s it, I’m done. When we started this, I never thought I’d watch every game and had a backup plan for all the games I assumed I’d miss. But after a while, I got into it. Watching the game every day became part of the summer’s rhythm. Then it was like spotting the bottom of the carton when you’re getting a bowl of ice cream, “Hey, I think I can finish this! I’ll be sick as a dog, but I can finish this!”
Watching every day changes your point of view: Any player can have a terrific day and any player can have a bad one. You’ve got to watch all the time to get a clear picture, and players resent the people who don’t but still spout opinions.
All in all, it’s been a lot of work but really interesting … and I couldn’t have done it without a ton of support. So here’s to all the editors, baseball writers, broadcasters, players, coaches and others who work out at Kauffman Stadium: Thank you.
P.S. If you liked this project and want to see it repeated next season, send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure the right people see it.
Mike Fannin and Holly Lawton for giving me the project, Greg Farmer and Tim Baxter for all the work on the Web site, Adam Darby, Jay Williams, Jody Cox, Amanda Wilkins and especially Nicole Poell for all the support work to get the stats posted. All the people out at the stadium who made me feel welcome, especially Mike Swanson and Dina Wathan (who finally gave me a big-boy media pass), the other reporters — Bob Dutton, Terez Paylor and Daniel Paulling, Sam Mellinger for telling me about MLB.com and how to seem smarter than I really am, Ryan Lefebvre, Joel Goldberg and Frank White (who encouraged me throughout the season).
All the players and coaches who spent time explaining the inside workings of their sport, especially John Gibbons, Chris Getz, Jason Kendall, Brayan Pena (who really is as nice as he seems), Mitch Maier, Dusty Hughes, John Wathan, Lucas May, Sean O’Sullivan, Kanekoa Texeira, Bruce Chen, Zack Greinke, Bob McClure and Mike Aviles (who made me laugh every time we talked).
Finally, my family, who either enjoyed or tolerated what I was doing.
And that’s about all you can ask.